(CNN) — A man unleashed a barrage of gunfire on Dallas’ police headquarters and planted explosives outside the building early Saturday — but narrowly failed to wound anyone — leading to a chase to a suburb that ended with officers shooting him in his parked van at a restaurant parking lot.
Police believe they killed the suspect, though they haven’t confirmed his death yet. Late Saturday morning were using a robot to probe the van in the suburb of Hutchins because the suspect claimed he had rigged the vehicle with explosives, Dallas Police Chief David Brown told reporters.
“We believe this suspect meant to kill officers,” Brown said. “We barely survived the intentions of this suspect.”
Before he was shot, the suspect ranted to police by phone, giving his name and alleging police were responsible for his child having been taken from him, but investigators haven’t confirmed his identity, Brown said.
Police planned controlled explosions at the van in the parking lot of a Jack in the Box restaurant in Hutchins to ensue the vehicle could be safely approached, Brown said.
The attack began shortly after midnight, with the man firing an assault weapon and then a shotgun from the outside, riddling police cars and the windows of the headquarters, which sits across the street from a large apartment and office complex.
Officers, staffers and perhaps others narrowly avoided being shot. The chief said rounds hit not only an occupied squad car but also the police headquarters’ front lobby, its information desk and the building’s second floor.
One lobby staffer had just risen from a desk to get a soda — and bullet holes there suggest that the worker would have been shot otherwise, Brown said.
Bullets might have been whizzing near residents across the street, too. Rick Birt, who lives in the South Side on Lamar complex, was taking a phone video of the gunfire from his open apartment window.
“I heard snaps overhead, so I could tell that was rounds coming in our direction,” Birt, a former Marine, told CNN.
Parts of the initial attack were caught on video by several people nearby, and the police chief said he believed the sounds indicated some of the gunfire came close to those making the recordings. But based on the suspect’s calls to police, “we think he was specifically targeting police officers,” Brown said.
The attacker also planted at least one set of pipe bombs in a bag outside, designed to “explode upon touch,” Brown said.
Police returned fire and gave chase. Video recorded by a witness and aired on CNN shows the dark van ramming the nose of a police car before retreating in reverse.
Chase, another shootout, and standoff
After the shootout at police headquarters, the suspect called 911 and gave a four- to five-minute rant, accusing of police of being to blame for him losing custody of a child, Brown said.
Police later found his number and called him back, eventually allowing SWAT officers to negotiate.
Officers pursued the van to the restaurant parking lot in Hutchins — roughly 13 miles to the southeast of the Dallas police headquarters — and the man opened a van door and again shot at police, injuring no one, Brown said.
Police called the man for negotiations. The suspect in the vehicle gave police the name James Boulware. Police said that they cannot independently confirm that it is the suspect’s real identity.
Police found a previous record of domestic violence by a man under that name. The suspect told police that he was angry because they took away his child and labeled him a terrorist.
He threatened to blow them up and broke off negotiations, Brown said.
Shortly after 4:30 a.m. (5:30 a.m. ET), police used a .50-caliber rifle to hit the engine block, disabling the van, Brown said, because the man on the phone had been increasingly hostile and agitated. Police didn’t want him to drive away and threaten anyone else, Brown said.
About a half-hour later, SWAT snipers shot the man through the van’s front windshield, Brown said.
The man had become increasingly angry and made threats before cutting off the negotiations, the chief said.
“They (SWAT officers) made the call, and I believe it’s the right call … to stop his violence,” Brown said.
Officer almost tripped on bomb near HQ, ‘wouldn’t have survived’
Back outside headquarters, police found at least one package of pipe bombs. It was set to detonate upon touch, Brown said.
“(An officer), during the searching, almost tripped over it. If he had touched it, he wouldn’t have survived,” Brown said.
The package exploded when a bomb-squad robot tried to move it Saturday morning, police said.
Dallas police posted a tweet showing that vehicles were damaged in the blast.
Former Marine captured video
The crackling sound of the Dallas shootout got the attention of Birt, the ex-Marine who lives across the street from the police headquarters with his wife.
“We heard loud noises, my wife asked if I thought they were shots,” he said. “I went over to the window and put one of them up. And we heard more shots being fired, and I turned to my wife and said, ‘Yeah, that’s definitely gunfire.'”
He got his cell phone and recorded video. After the van fled, police informed him and his wife that they and others to evacuate the building.
Dallas police said the complex’s residents might have to stay away for hours, since officers needed to determine whether more bombs were planted in the area.
As for the suspect, investigators have no reason to believe the man had “any nexus to terrorism,” Brown said.
Investigators are looking into whether a van sold in Newnan, Georgia, on eBay last week may be the van used in the Dallas attack, a source familiar with the investigation said. They are investigating, among other things, who may have purchased the vehicle.